Mu Cang Chai, one of the most beautiful circuits in the Northwest
- on Apr 19, 2020       By: BN
In October, it will be the meeting place for rice terraces at Mu Cang Chai, which are reputed to be "a masterpiece forged of the culture and human concoction of the Vietnamese". Grab your camera and get ready for one of the best adventures in Vietnam.
Located at the foot of the Hoang Lien Son mountains of the Yen Bai province, about 280 km from Hanoi, the Mu Cang Chai district is known for spectacular landscapes with one side of the most tortuous passes and the other of the most beautiful terraced fields in the country. For hikers and photography enthusiasts alike, the period between September and October is undoubtedly the ideal season to capture the resplendent beauty of the North-west where sparkling terraced rice fields reign supreme. With the famous fields of Hoang Su Phi and Sa Pa also in North Vietnam, this terraced setting of Mu Cang Chai has been honoured as a national natural heritage.
Not only is a means of providing food, rice cultivation on the mountainside closely links to the history and way of life of the local ethnic community. According to the beliefs of the H'mong and the Thai who populate the villages of Mu Cang Chai, each creature has its own soul. The fields, the rice, the thunder, the water… All have their respective gods to support them spiritually.
Harvests of the year fall in two periods, one in the spring (April - May) and the other in the fall, which is the main harvest (September - October). During the first, the farmers mainly work in the fields below because of the lack of water on the hills. The fall harvest, therefore, stands out as the most fruitful, with a yield no less than that of the plains.
To admire the most beautiful rice fields on the terrace, do not miss a stop in one of these three towns, La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and Ze Xu Phinh where the inhabitants attached to the traditions. They still practice the modes of ancestral culture. The municipalities La Pan Tan and Ze Xu Phinh are respectively 15 km and 20 km from Mu Cang Chai town. Che Cu Nha is about 7 km from the centre of the district, the road for its access is more sloping and difficult.
During the autumn harvest, a rural painting takes place before your eyes, combining the clarity of the sky and the adorable splendour of the undulating rice fields, embroidered by small wooden pavilions on the mountainside. A breath-taking view from a pass over the sumptuous spectacle of the fields gives the impression that time has frozen in absolute calm.
When to go?
- between September and October with huge golden rice fields,
- between April and May with giant mirrors.
How is the weather?
The weather in the mountainous region is rather unpredictable. If it rains at night, it is foggy in the morning and then sunny during the day. It is better to prepare light and long-winded clothes because of the intermittent rain in the forest.
How to get there?
For a 280km journey between Hanoi and Mu Cang Chai, two methods are possible, by bus or motorbike.
* By motorbike (around 8 - 9 hours’ drive): from Hanoi, take the national road 32 for Thanh Son (80km) - Van Chan (65km) - Nghia Lo (45km) - Tu Le (50km) - La Pan Tan (33km) - Mu Cang Chai (23km).
* By bus: departure from Hanoi, at two bus stations - My Dinh and Giap Bat, several quality buses are available such as Ngan Ha, Hai Van. Otherwise, take a regular bus for the journey Hanoi - Than Uyen which will go via Mu Cang Chai. On your arrival, it is practicable to rent a motorbike to better circulate between the sites as well as to enjoy as many places as possible (the rental price varies between 150,000 -200,000 dongs per days depending on the season).
Culinary specialities: During your stay at Yen Bai, Mu Cang Chai, do not miss especially tasty typical dishes of Hmong and Thai like 5-colour sticky rice, grilled fish, traditional cake "banh day", chicken grilled with Mac Mat leaf, grilled buffalo meat, young bamboo...
Souvenir to bring back: To give a gift to your loved ones or to yourself, a wide range of choices is available to you, in particular traditional clothing, most of which are colourful brocades of ethnic groups. It is in the mountain market at Mu Cang Chai that you can find a good number of authentic objects (open all day).
Suggestion for a Mu Cang Chai discovery program 3 days 2 nights
Day 1: Hanoi - Yen Bai - Nghia Lo
You depart by bus from My Dinh or Giap Bat bus station to Yen Bai. You can arrive around 9 am in Yen Bai city. From here, take a motorbike to continue.
The fairly rugged Yen Bai - Nghia Lo route (80km) requires 2.5 - 3 hours. Along the way, there’s a possible rest in the Suoi Giang commune, Van Chan district to appreciate the centuries-old tea plants of the place.
In the evening, you will stay at one of the homestays in the Deu village, Nghia An commune, Nghia Lo town. Quality accommodation costs around 100,000 dongs per person per night.
Day 2: Nghia Lo - Mu Cang Chai
Departure from Nghia Lo for Tu Le, it is the vertiginous loops of the famous Khau Pha pass which follows you with its grandiose and misty beauty for certain slopes.
Then there’s a stop in Lim Mong and Lim Thai villages which deploying superb rice terraces. You can have lunch at Tu Le with a pleasant treat of sticky rice. There’s a source of local mineral water to recharge your batteries if the weather permits.
Along the way to Mu Cang Chai, there are so many beautiful rice fields on the terrace. You will then access the Hmong ethnic villages in the La Pan Tan and Che Cu Nha towns, the most beautiful spots for your photos.
End of the day, after the escape among the masterpieces on the terrace, you will arrive at the Kim Noi village of the Thai and stay with the locals to enjoy a perfectly peaceful atmosphere and a friendly welcome from the locals. The price of homestay is the same as in Nghia Lo.
Day 3: Mu Cang Chai - Yen Bai - Hanoi
In the morning, a last stroll along the fields offers you a big breath of mountain air before breakfast and the preparation of things.
Then your departure for Yen Bai city to put your motorcycle back before taking a bus back to Hanoi.